Health Buzz: Depressed Women Face Higher Stroke Risk

7 signs you could be at risk of a brain attack; 9 surprisingly simple ways to cut salt.

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Study: Depression May Raise Women's Stroke Risk

Depressed women may be more likely than others to have a stroke. That's according to a new study by Harvard researchers, who found that women with a history of depression have a 29 percent higher stroke risk than women who aren't depressed. The risk jumps to 39 percent for those taking antidepressants such as Prozac or Zoloft, according to data published Thursday in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. The findings are based on an analysis of 80,574 women ages 54 to 79 who were tracked for six years. Though more research is necessary, one explanation is that depression is linked to obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, which can lead to stroke, the researchers speculate. And depressed people are more likely to smoke, be physically inactive, and to forgo needed medication than their non-depressed counterparts. It's unclear whether the results apply to men, since women are twice as likely to be depressed, USA Today reports.

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  • Stroke: 7 Signs You Could Be at Risk of a Brain Attack

    Stroke can hit like a deadly lightning bolt. And if the victim survives, the aftermath can be debilitating—affecting functioning from movement to speech. While stroke is the third-leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, it trails behind other major diseases in awareness and recognition of symptoms. Being informed, however, can protect you from suffering either an ischemic stroke, caused by a blood clot and the most common form of stroke, or the less common hemorrhagic stroke, caused by bleeding in the brain. Know the factors that may be putting you at risk:

    1. Uncontrolled high blood pressure. As for all cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke. The American Heart Association estimates that only 45 percent of people with high blood pressure actually have it under control, U.S. News reported in 2009. Female stroke victims, in particular, tend to have uncontrolled blood pressure, and in general, women who suffer strokes don't seem to be treated as aggressively as men. High blood pressure doesn't have any outward telltale signs, so getting it measured by your healthcare provider is essential to determine if you should make lifestyle changes or take medications to bring it down.

    2. Smoking. Puffing on cigarettes is associated with a host of ills. An increased risk of stroke is one of them. When compared to nonsmokers, smokers have double the risk of ischemic stroke. Heavy smokers face an even greater risk: A study of women ages 15 to 49 published in the journal Stroke found stroke risk was proportional to the number of cigarettes smoked per day. The women who smoked two or more packs a day had nine times the risk of stroke of a nonsmoker. [Read more: Stroke: 7 Signs You Could Be at Risk of a Brain Attack.]

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    • 9 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Cut Salt

      Salt is everywhere: dumped into cans of soup, packed into hotdogs, and swimming in salad dressing and salsa. Exactly how bad for you are all those tiny crystals? That question's surprisingly controversial. In May, several researchers reignited a debate by suggesting that cutting salt intake doesn't benefit heart health, contrary to conventional wisdom. In their Journal of the American Medical Association study of 3,681 people without heart problems, those who had the most salt in their diets actually had the lowest risk of dying from heart disease.

      But that conclusion runs against the long-standing consensus among experts—and against the latest evidence. If Americans made small daily reductions in salt intake, say the authors of a new analysis that appeared Thursday in the British Medical Journal, the country could have up to 120,000 fewer cases of heart disease, 66,000 fewer strokes, and 99,000 fewer heart attacks annually. (Though essential in small amounts, sodium increases blood volume, making the heart work harder and increasing pressure in the arteries.)